PACKET RAT: Apple shows a lot of Gaul in renaming Rendezvous

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

The Rat doesn't usually get surprised by Apple Computer Inc. The company is among the most secretive in the computer business, but the whiskered one has plenty of ways to circumvent that particular problem.

But in mid-April, Apple managed to catch the wiry rodent with his beta senses down. Lulled into complacency by the news that, as he had suspected, Mac OS X 'Tiger' would ship before the end of the month and that Apple would heavily discount the software for government users'by about 50 percent or more, it turns out'he was nearly knocked out of his chair by Apple's sudden 'good day''or rather, 'bonjour.'

In compliance with a settlement with middleware vendor Tibco Software Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif., reached last year for a trademark infringement on the term 'Rendezvous,' Apple was expected to rename its technology for detecting services on a network something nice and techie'like OpenTalk, a term for which the company had applied for a trademark. Instead, on April 14, the company announced that 'Rendezvous' would now be called ... Bonjour.

'Sacre bleu!' the whiskered one exclaimed.

The technologies formerly known as Rendezvous are known on other platforms by the somewhat less poetic, but highly utilitarian, name of Zeroconf, for Zero Configuration Network. They allow computers to create ad hoc networks and share services without any external configuration.

The technology is great for setting up peer networks to share files or printers, and to collaborate on documents with applications like SubEthaEdit, a Rendezvous'oops, Bonjour-based'editor that lets multiple computers be used to edit a single document at the same time. It's also used with Apple's iTunes for playlist sharing and by iChat for discovering other chat users on a network.

And, apparently, it does all this by speaking French'at least based on Apple's naming conventions.

'OK, now I get it,' the Rat exclaimed at the news. 'All the black turtlenecks, the obsession with style: Steve Jobs is really French! Or maybe he's ... Jerry Lewis!'

'They'll have a hard time selling Bonjour in this town,' sighed an Apple-sympathizing colleague. 'We're still trying to get them to change the menu listing back from 'freedom fries' in the commissary.'

'Well, it was definitely one of those red state-blue state marketing moves,' the cyberrodent suggested, still reeling. 'Most of Apple's market is in the blue states anyway. Maybe they figured that OpenTalk sounded too much like Freedom of Speech, and that would get them in trouble with the recording industry again. Bonjour makes it sound like a way to locate available croissants and coffee.'

'I know I could sure use something like that,' said his colleague.

While a zero-configuration way to use ad hoc networks to find breakfast pastries certainly appealed to le grand rat, he couldn't help but wonder what other ways Apple's Francophile tendencies would surface in the next version of Mac OS X.

'Maybe they'll rename the whole thing Mac OS X'le Tigre. At least they'd be able to avoid problems until they put that on golf shirts.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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